LETTING OFF STEAM


| November/December 2003



The bulk of this season's shows are behind us now, and reports from around the country have been almost universally positive. Although we're definitely seeing some adjustments in inspections and displaying practices as a result of the explosion in Medina, Ohio, in 2001, the steam hobby's health is sound and the future looks bright.

The big shows seem to keep getting bigger, and it's quite apparent the general public is more than a little interested in this ancient iron we so lovingly restore and display. Working displays seem especially interesting to most show attendees, and that makes perfect sense, as a working exhibit gives the uninitiated a clear idea of what this machinery could do and why it was so important in its time.

Effectively conveying the importance of the impact of this machinery in the context of its time is key if we're to build any real interest in the mind of the casual observer. A static steam engine and thresher might be visually interesting, but if you've never seen the two working together, you simply can't imagine what it's like.

Watching a steam engine run, it's flywheel spinning as the belt pulls on the thresher, the thresher's multitude of components running through a well-planned process that almost magically produces a bin full of grain, is a sight to behold.

We have some interesting material again this issue, including a look at Geiser engine no. 18298, or 'Ole Puff' as the engine has come to be known. The last known Geiser steam traction engine built, Ole Puff is an important piece of history, and should be of particular interest to Geiser fans.

Additionally, regular contributor Robert T. Rhode provides readers with an interesting little digression in steam with his look at curious steam-driven inventions. While his piece might seem a little far field of our general subject matter, it's useful and interesting to contemplate the many ways in which steam was employed, whether successfully or otherwise. While manufacturing and agriculture seem, in hindsight, to have been best suited to take advantage of steam-driven power, more than a few inventive, active minds conjured up ideas to further harness steam's amazing capacity.